Primer

The following description gives an overview for the different products and concepts of the Tinkerforge building block system. A detailed description of the functions and offered APIs can be found in the documentation of each product.

Products

Our products are divided into five different categories:

  • Bricks: Stackable microcontroller modules for sensing and controlling over USB.
  • Bricklets: Non-stackable sensor/actuator modules that extend the features of a Brick.
  • Master Extensions: Modules that offers alternatives to the USB interface of Master Bricks (Wi-Fi, Ethernet, RS485).
  • Power Supplies: Modules to power a stack of Bricks, plugged below the stack.
  • Accessories

This tutorial explains of how everything works together.

Bricks

RED Brick Master Brick DC Brick HAT Brick Stepper Brick Servo Brick IMU Brick 2.0

Bricks are 4 x 4cm (1.57 x 1.57") modules that can be controlled by devices, such as (embedded) PCs, over their Mini-USB connector. Every Brick basically performs one task. There are Bricks that perform complex sensor tasks (e.g. the IMU Brick 2.0), communicate (e.g. the Master Brick) and drive motors (e.g. the DC Brick).

With Bricklets the features of Bricks can be extended. Dependent on the Brick it has none, two or four connectors for Bricklets.

Bricks can be assembled into a stack (see description of stack concept). The USB interface of a Master Brick can be replaced by Wi-Fi, Ethernet or RS485 using Master Extensions. In conjunction with the stack concept all Bricks and Bricklets can be controlled by Wi-Fi or Ethernet instead of by USB.

There is an extra section for discontinued Bricks.

Name Description
DC Drives one brushed DC motor with up to 28V and 5A (peak)
Debug For Firmware Developers: JTAG and serial console
HAT HAT for Raspberry Pi with 8 Bricklets ports and real-time clock
HAT Zero HAT for Raspberry Pi Zero with 4 Bricklets ports
IMU 2.0 Full fledged AHRS with 9 degrees of freedom
Master Basis to build stacks and has 4 Bricklet ports
RED Executes user programs and controls other Bricks/Bricklets standalone
Servo Drives up to 7 RC Servos with up to 3A
Silent Stepper Silently drives one bipolar stepper motor with up to 46V and 1.6A per phase
Stepper Drives one bipolar stepper motor with up to 38V and 2.5A per phase

Bricklets

LCD 128x64 Bricklet NFC Brickelt Rotary Encoder Bricklet 2.0 Piezo Speaker Bricklet 2.0 Industrial Quad Relay Bricklet 2.0 Laser Range Finder Bricklet 2.0 Thermal Imaging Bricklet

Bricklets can be used to extend the features of Bricks. There are Bricklets to measure physical quantities such as rotation, voltage, current and ambient light as well as Bricklets for control purposes such as switching relays, digital input/output and alphanumeric output on LCDs.

Unlike Bricks, Bricklets have no fixed size. Each Bricklet has the minimum size possible. Each Brick has up to four connectors for Bricklets. Bricklets can be controlled over the USB connection of the connected Brick.

There is an extra section for discontinued Bricklets.

Name Description
Accelerometer 2.0 Measures acceleration in three axis
Air Quality Measures IAQ index, temperature, humidity and air pressure
Ambient Light 3.0 Measures ambient light up to 64000lux
Analog In 3.0 Measures DC voltage between 0V and 42V
Analog Out 2.0 Generates configurable DC voltage between 0V and 12V
Analog Out 3.0 Generates configurable DC voltage between 0V and 12V
Barometer Measures air pressure and altitude changes
Barometer 2.0 Measures air pressure and altitude changes
Breakout Makes all Bricklet signals available
CAN Communicates with CAN bus devices
CAN 2.0 Communicates with CAN bus devices
CO2 2.0 Measures CO2 concentration, temperature and humidity
Color Measures color (RGB value), illuminance and color temperature
Color 2.0 Measures color (RGB value), illuminance and color temperature
Compass 3-axis compass with 0.1mG (milli Gauss) and 0.1° resolution
Distance IR Measures distance up to 150cm with infrared light
Distance IR 2.0 Measures distance up to 150cm with infrared light
Distance US 2.0 Measures distance between 30cm and 500cm with ultrasound
DMX DMX master and slave
Dual Button Two tactile buttons with built-in blue LEDs
Dual Button 2.0 Two tactile buttons with built-in blue LEDs
Dual Relay Two relays to switch AC/DC devices
Dust Detector Measures dust density
E-Paper 296x128 Three color 296x128 e-paper display
Energy Monitor Measures Voltage, Current, Energy, Real/Apparent/Reactive Power, Power Factor and Frequency
GPS 2.0 Determine position, velocity and altitude using GPS
Hall Effect Detects presence of magnetic field
Hall Effect 2.0 Measures magnetic flux density between -7mT and +7mT
Humidity 2.0 Measures relative humidity
Industrial Analog Out Generates configurable DC voltage and current, 0V to 10V and 4mA to 20mA
Industrial Analog Out 2.0 Generates configurable DC voltage and current, 0V to 10V and 4mA to 20mA
Industrial Counter 4 channel counter up to 4MHz
Industrial Digital In 4 2.0 4 galvanically isolated digital inputs
Industrial Digital Out 4 4 galvanically isolated digital outputs
Industrial Digital Out 4 2.0 4 galvanically isolated digital outputs
Industrial Dual 0-20mA Measures two DC currents between 0mA and 20mA (IEC 60381-1)
Industrial Dual 0-20mA 2.0 Measures two DC currents between 0mA and 20mA (IEC 60381-1)
Industrial Dual Analog In 2.0 Measures two DC voltages between -35V and +35V with 24bit resolution each
Industrial Dual Relay Two relays to switch AC/DC devices
Industrial Quad Relay 2.0 4 galvanically isolated solid state relays
IO-16 16-channel digital input/output
IO-16 2.0 16-channel digital input/output
IO-4 2.0 4-channel digital input/output
Isolator Galvanically isolates any Bricklet from any Brick
Joystick 2-axis joystick with push-button
Joystick 2.0 2-axis joystick with push-button
Laser Range Finder 2.0 Measures distance up to 40m with laser light
LCD 128x64 7.1cm (2.8inch) display with 128x64 pixel and touch screen
LCD 20x4 20x4 character alphanumeric display with blue backlight
LED Strip 2.0 Controls up to 2048 RGB(W) LEDs
Line Measures reflectivity of a surface
Linear Poti 59mm linear potentiometer
Linear Poti 2.0 59mm linear potentiometer
Load Cell 2.0 Measures weight with a load cell
Motion Detector Passive infrared (PIR) motion sensor with 7m range
Motion Detector 2.0 Passive infrared (PIR) motion sensor with 12m range and dimmable backlight
Motorized Linear Poti Motorized Linear Potentiometer
Multi Touch Capacitive touch sensor for 12 electrodes
Multi Touch 2.0 Capacitive touch sensor for 12 electrodes
NFC NFC tag read/write, NFC P2P and Card Emulation
OLED 128x64 2.0 3.3cm (1.3inch) OLED display with 128x64 pixels
OLED 64x48 1.68cm (0.66inch) OLED display with 64x48 pixels
One Wire Communicates with up 64 1-Wire devices
Outdoor Weather 433MHz receiver for outdoor weather station
Particulate Matter Measures Particulate Matter concentration (PM1.0, PM2.5 and PM10)
Piezo Speaker Creates beep with configurable frequency
Piezo Speaker 2.0 Creates beep and alarm with configurable volume and frequency
PTC 2.0 Reads temperatures from Pt100 und Pt1000 sensors
Real-Time Clock Battery-backed real-time clock
Real-Time Clock 2.0 Battery-backed real-time clock
Remote Switch 2.0 Controls remote mains switches and receives signals from remotes
RGB LED Controls one RGB LED
RGB LED 2.0 Controls one RGB LED
RGB LED Button Push button with built-in RGB LED
Rotary Encoder 2.0 360° rotary encoder with push-button
Rotary Poti 300° rotary potentiometer
Rotary Poti 2.0 300° rotary potentiometer
RS232 Communicates with RS232 devices
RS232 2.0 Communicates with RS232 devices
RS485 Communicates with RS485/Modbus devices with full- or half-duplex
Segment Display 4x7 Four 7-segment displays with switchable colon
Segment Display 4x7 2.0 Four 7-segment displays with switchable dots
Solid State Relay 2.0 Controls AC and DC Solid State Relays
Sound Intensity Measures sound intensity
Sound Pressure Level Measures Sound Pressure Level in dB(A/B/C/D/Z)
Temperature Measures ambient temperature with 0.5°C accuracy
Temperature 2.0 Measures ambient temperature with 0.2°C accuracy
Temperature IR 2.0 Measures contactless object temperature between -70°C and +380°C
Thermal Imaging 80x60 pixel thermal imaging camera
Thermocouple 2.0 Measures temperature with thermocouples
Tilt Detects inclination of Bricklet (tilt switch open/closed)
UV Light Measures UV light
UV Light 2.0 Measures UV-A, UV-B and UV index
Voltage/Current 2.0 Measures power, DC voltage and DC current up to 720W/36V/20A
XMC1400 Breakout Breakout for Infineon XMC1400 microcontroller

Master Extensions

Ethernet Extension RS485 Extension WIFI Extension 2.0

If a Master Brick is used on its own or in a stack, communication is done over its USB interface. Master Extensions extend Master Bricks by other communication interfaces. There are cable based (RS485, Ethernet) and wireless Master Extensions (WIFI) available. Instead of over USB, Bricks and Bricklets can be controlled over Wi-Fi or Ethernet using the corresponding extension. RS485 can be used to interconnect Bricks and Bricklets over larger distances.

From a programming perspective the different interfaces are transparent. A stack with a Master Extension behaves as if every Brick in the stack is directly connected to the PC over an USB connection.

This means: You can develop an application with all modules independently connected to the PC over USB. Later you can stack these modules together to stacks, add Master Bricks and cable based or wireless Extensions and you can run the previously written code without any changes.

There is an extra section for discontinued Extensions.

Name Description
Ethernet Cable based Ethernet connection between stack and PC
RS485 Cable based RS485 connection between stacks
WIFI Wireless Wi-Fi connection between stack and PC
WIFI 2.0 Wireless Wi-Fi connection between stack and PC

Power Supplies

Step-Down Power Supply

Bricks and Bricklets can be powered by the USB connector of the Brick. Stacks can also be powered by the master of the stack over its USB connection. This option is limited by the USB specification to 500mA. A large stack may need more power.

To provide greater currents, Power Supplies are available. These modules power the stack and can additionally be used to supply the power for driver Bricks (e.g. the DC Brick). Power Supplies have the same size as Bricks and are stacked in at the bottom of the stack.

Name Description
Step-Down Powers a stack of Bricks with 5V

Accessories

DC Jack Adapter
Name Description
DC Jack Adapter Adapter between a 5mm DC jack and 2 Pole Black Connector

Concepts

Stack of Bricks

Image of Stack of Bricks

Bricks can be stacked. A Master Brick (as the lowermost Brick) is responsible for the communication between all boards within the stack. This master routes the messages between the boards in the stack and the controlling device. This way only one USB connection is necessary to control all Bricks and Bricklets of a stack. For the user, the stack behaves as if all Bricks were connected separately over USB with the device. The stacking tutorial gives more information about how to use stacks.

With Master Extensions the USB interface of a stack can be replaced by Ethernet, Wi-Fi or RS485. If the USB connection does not deliver enough power power supplies can be used to power the stack.

Programming/API

A general description of the programming interface can be found here. An overview of the API bindings for each programming language is given here. The API of each product, including examples in any supported programming language, can be found on each product document page.

These Tutorials are an introduction to the usage of Bricks and Bricklets: